Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Christmas Cheers

Why would a supposedly sane and reasonable/rational person even consider voting for Donald Trump? Trump personifies what politics has deteriorated to in the United States. One can assign as many negatives to Trump as possible and still be coming up sparse on the ledger. But back to the main premise of why? Simply two words – Hillary Clinton.
The illustrious ledger of lies from the Clinton camp certainly is a legacy that will haunt her run for the presidency, but the faithful will do what they do best and ignore the obvious. I would certainly love to post a litany of her ability to dance around various faux pas, but there would be a logjam on servers around the globe inundated with anecdotal and non-anecdotal examples and the precious internet will come tumbling down.
The local angst over the rotary or is it now “The Rotary” continues to inspire our state government – most notably the Department of Transportation – to ingeniously devise ever newer methods of delay. In the meantime commons fixes such as dedicated lanes within the rotary – a common practice elsewhere – are ignored, so that entering and exiting resembles a demolition derby.
Dan Murray is simply painful to watch. The parsing of words at a snail’s pace and the disorganization of notes when going before the BOS makes me wish to start cutting myself again. At a recent meeting the Chair – Allin Frawley – even tried to push Murray along since time is of the essence. Maybe it is a deliberate ruse to accumulate billing hours?
The process to be appointed to a town board is now gone from pathetic to ridiculous. I imagine the vetting of a Syrian refugee is a less ponderous task. What next in this convoluted process? A stool sample? DNA? NSA background check? Most positions are relatively benign – yet they now appear to be in the same league as a SCOTUS appointment.
The Oliver House will drain valuable resources from elsewhere and that is a given that has already reared its ugly fiscal head – and they have just scratched the surface of the money drain this old wreck will present. Bridgewater got stuck with their dilapidated money pit that is now a memorial to inept CPA expenditures and Oliver House will soon follow.
Trash collection is now a pleasure since it is a single stream for recyclables and trash is in a barrel that can actually accommodate most households. The truck method appears to be efficient and painless to the containers. The landfill is still available for a fee ($25) and I have used it many times for hazardous waste.
Why Common Core in Massachusetts? Makes zero sense and the only reason I can figure out is a left over from the Patrick Administration. Massachusetts is the most successful state in nationwide testing. English, science and math we are consistently in first place. In international science and math exams, Massachusetts would be in the top five if we were an independent nation. So we roll over and adopt this? Huh?
What ever happened to that cross that caused such an inflamed discussion a few years ago?
On the recent Gazette “Best Of” list I did not see any mention of the best restaurant in the Lakeville/Middleboro area – Lily’s at LeBaron Hills. An outstanding menu, drinks and meals that can be half size. My only complaint – since that is my nature – is that no alcoholic beverages are not refillable.
What is it with the ghost craze? There is absolutely zero scientific evidence to support such silliness yet it manages to have some traction. But, then again, Peter Popoff bilked his acolytes for 25 Million last year selling “blessings” and some type of bottled water that had magical powers. The water was supposedly from a well near Chernobyl.
The downtown area of Middleboro apparently takes a step forward and two steps backwards with some new closings. An antique shop has shuttered and Cool Moose is gone. Meanwhile, a consignment shop has moved into downtown and from what I have been able to determine a new nail salon has not opened recently. Adam Bond’s bench, however, is fast becoming a local gathering point.
The kerfuffle over the 360 restaurant is now meaningless as it has done a 180 and followed Shooter’s into the town history books. The concept was very similar to Shooter’s which had a rather tainted reputation as a bikers bar. That image remained with the 360 and the few vehicles I observed were usually bikes.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

BOS and Weston Committee

A theme it has become to me regarding the outdated practice of Town Meeting or TM in a community of 23,000 and counting. As I have stated on many occasions TM represents the “Purest form of special interest.”
At the BOS weekly stroll into the bizarre, mundane, humorous and problematic came the Weston Town Forest Committee on the agenda. The purpose of which was to bring forth to one and all the latest “opinion” by Middleboro’s own William J. Fallon or by his more common moniker – “The Great Mouthpiece.” More on “Billy Flynn” later.
John Knowlton, apparently, is under the assumption that TM is the end all for local decision making – and he is not alone. As the discussed moved forward, backwards and sidewards the local television audience was blessed with the appearance of Neil Rosenthal, who is usually described as a local businessman and former Selectman.
Pomposity is certainly well embedded into the framework of Neil (and other "Town Father's) as his main objective of removing himself from his home was to get another 15 minutes of local fame by dope slapping Bumpkin and to a lesser extent the Chair of the WTF or Weston Town Forrest Committee. Mr. Rosenthal is one of the handful of locals that look forward to TM as I do for the discounted rib eye at the local supermarkets. Another exercise for demonstrating the mastery of the rules of order and stepping forward to sound out on what apparently is some ire at the Bumpkin. Yawn!
In this instance, both Knowlton and Rosenthal missed the point. Missed is a rather understated term since this was tantamount to me shooting at a target at the local Rod & Gun Club and having the bullet land in North Dakota.
Both gentleman (I wish someone would apply the term to me) failed to realize that at TM both supported the recently failed police station or militant preservationist proposal. How did it go at TM? Well, it was similar to Tom Brady and the Patriots offense facing the Sisters of The Poor for 60 minutes. But there is more to it. On step two the real hoi polloi of Middleboro showed up and firmly euthanasiaed this puppy – if there is such an exotic use of the term or the word.
What really frosts me is the attempt by Neil to “school” our Chair. Yes – I am a board member of the committee. This was 100% uncalled for since Mr. Rosenthal was examining through a prism without any understanding. Stick to Bumpkin since that is a very large and well deserved target.
But back to the outside looking in. Our Chair was left without direction. The previous Chair had vacated the committee thanks to some type of internal strife that I still do not quite have my gossipy little paws around. Paperwork was about as easy to locate as former IRS Director Lerner’s emails. The archives for the committee simply are spotty at best.
Thankfully, our Chair was able to respond in a matter so school was out on that issue with Mr. Rosenthal getting an F on research and another F on manners. And since I have no manners I recognize them when violated.
Dan Murray had a rather interesting was of traversing from point A to point B on his interpretation of the whole dust-up and subsequent review of just how the Weston Will should and could be viewed. I will give – as much as it troubles me – to give Bumpkin his props on that. Bumpkin pointed out the one item that Murray has mastered and that being that nothing is more consistent than inconsistency for Billy Flynn.
I do not speak for the committee since I am one voice among many. Our Chair is the conduit for what will be the more public and official face. I do have opinions and will question to just what extent will Murray’s decision will be used as a framework for what the WTF group?
Disc Golf is a leisurely game or a sport that is relatively low impact. Passive? I doubt that, but it is active. Is Weston going to be limited to passive recreation only? If so that means my occasional trail run will be verboten. And horseback riding – a true trail destroyer – may be in the same category.
In a recent Bumpkin column he alluded to me and to a tip of the iceberg of research I had done on this subject. Numerous park managers were contacted for their input on the ecology issues, wild life impacts, tree damage and on and on. There is minimal impact.
Murray’s latest “decision” will (hopefully) not stop any subsequent chances for being the first Middleboro resident appointed to the SCOTUS, but it needs some clarification and some parameters so that the WTF and our overseers – the BOS – do not get bogged down in the occasional poorly thought out decisions that can be made.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Casino and other stuff

The casino issue continues on - much like a feline with nine lives or a vampire that cannot be killed. The latest in this lengthy saga is that Taunton will finally get a Native American/Indian/Indigenous People casino that will be a remarkable 500M addition to a city that is essentially dead in the water.
The plan is to place it on route 140 and that is, no doubt, a former Indian/Native American/Indigenous People trail that has some type of historical significance.
Cedric Cromwell - not to be confused with Oliver Cromwell - is the tribal spokesperson or is it leader? I’m sure there is a term somewhere to describe his skill set among this faux tribe. Anyways, Cromwell spoke at a love fest in Taunton recently with assorted pols in attendance to describe the wonders of it all.
Cromwell dismissed or minimized any potential lawsuits that will certainly hover around this latest resurrected effort by the faux tribe. They have claimed ancestral home over just about any open space in North America in an attempt to cash in. I’m sure Cromwell would even claim the Wamps are a lost tribe of Israel to get the coin.
One item of contention is Brockton. The citizens of Brockton are in favor (barely) of a casino. This will be at the site of the Brockton-Middleborough Agricultural Fair - or Brockton Fair Grounds.
Brockton actually makes Taunton resemble Manchester By The Sea. If you need cash just swept up shell casings after a night of random havoc in the former Shoe City and the scrap will make a mortgage payment.
I for one will miss the fair. Where else can I witness obese women in spandex outfits accompanied by their toothless and well tattooed biker “significant others.” Just the thrill of watching the assorted grifters that come into Brockton for the festival will be missed. Once this fair was actually a splendid event with freak shows, Kelly the Candyman, strip shows and rides that in this day and age would not pass inspection even if GM and VW were involved.
The fairgrounds - like most of Brockton - is now a seedy dump and that is being insulting to dumps everywhere. The casino is supposed to negate the morass Brockton has embraced and that is a pipe (not peace type) dream. Just let the city die its death with a few remaining enclaves of normalcy while those with any fiscal resources and sanity take flight.
The solution to this quagmire is to simply have Taunton and Brockton have their destination casinos. Forget the saturation as that has already happened. Let both build and both fail - which they will - and have someplace besides downtown Middleboro will haVE a passel of empty storefronts
Meanwhile Middleboro will examine the possibility of extracting cash from the “tribe” for long ago agreements. Good luck with that as the “tribe” would have difficulty finding two wooden nickels to rub together.
The latest in a list of proposed expenditures is a new or renovated high school. The current one is a bit shy of what standards are supposed to be for such an edifice. Science labs are outdated and mechanical and structural issues exist. That is just the beginning of all the needed high school infrastructure and, of course, I am sure the committee that is investigating this will show all the necessary data that will link a new building to improved student performance.
The drama continues with the BOS taking various pot shots - both public and private - at each other.
The Middleboro ladder truck cost one million dollars and I propose that now be the new unit of cost measurement for the town. If a new school cots 40M then the cost is 40 ladder trucks
The Red Sox have finished a miserable season with back-to-back last places seasons. The additions of Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval clearly show it is not how much money you spent, but how you spend it.

Friday, September 18, 2015

BOS to Tom Brady and other stuff

The Board of Selectmen or is it Select-persons? I dunno since in this day and age incorrect labeling can get the ire up of the PC crowd. Anyways, there appears to be some friction on the board that is becoming a bit clear by body language, tone of voice, facial expressions and so on. I imagine that passes for my own scientific evaluation.
The BOS also seems to have a certain "lone wolf" persona among their members.
The Town Manager seemed like a cool customer until the last meeting when I noticed a few stumbles with some pointed questions regarding a social media policy.
Social media is a battleground as those of us who participated in what passed for debate during the casino saga will attest. So the fine line is being delineated over just how to determine between that nasty First Amendment and personal responsibility as a town employee. As one who eschews such arbitrary control I am all for post whatever you want as long as it is not a town operated web site. If you wish to make profound statements or, instead, sound like a clone of Donald Trump, then just suffer the fact you will (hopefully) be ostracized.
The next issue to surface to deplete our pocketbooks is a new or refurbished high school. To quote one committee member evolved in evaluation "Ours minds are open" - and I paraphrase. This is similar to the very first go around with the police station when that committee rejected just about anything that surfaced since certain members had "Barney Google Eyes" attempting to stuff a bloated historic (hysteric?) adventure down our throats.
Regarding education in Middleboro I am sure the latest Superintendent - is that position in Middleboro similar to a monarchy where titles are forwarded? OK...back to point. I am sure the moles that crunch the numbers in the school system will provide us with mountains of documentation to support the fact that a new building will mean rising test scores. Is there a correlation someone that shows such?
The highlight of downtown renovation over the last few years can be summarized with two projects. The first is the hanging of potted plants and the second is a spiffy new bench erected in front of a relocated law office. The bench provides a terrific view of empty store fronts.
The downtown area needs some personal attention with one of my pet peeves. On a visit to said bench I bent my aged back down on several occasions to remove weeds from the sidewalk. I am sure a visit to Benny's for a 32 ounce sprayer of Round-Up would do the job. Of course, Round-Up is a product of "Big Chem" (Monsanto) who are behind all the "evils" of GMO - so doing such a task may cause repercussions. But, anyways, if anyone who walks the walkways reaches down and plucks a weed they will soon disappear.
I hate the Patriots. Hate is a strong word, but quite appropriate in sports. Their fans remind me of Yankee fans only even more arrogant and disillusioned. However, the recent issue regarding deflating footballs seemed like 100% NFL overkill. There is no doubt something was up, but this calls for a fine and not DEFCON 1. The NFL looked like - to be as least caustic as possible - dopes. Their lawyers were buffoons and the Commish comes across as the village idiot.
Now the negotiations have been completed and Middleboro will have a dope den. Of course, it is a medical dispensary to make us all feel better. From my perspective I would have all drugs legal. And I mean ALL drugs. Cocaine, weed, heroin, prescription pills and just about anything else. Where I draw the line is in accountability and personal responsibility - drive or do something stupid that impacts others and off to a prison that would make a citizen of Turkey fearful.
One of the more amusing handouts in contracts is with the school system and substitute teachers. If you are a former teacher in Middleboro you are compensated at $100 a day and if you are a former teacher from elsewhere it is $80 a day. I imagine this is a reward for all those spectacular MCAS scores achieved through the years.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Police Staion to weed - and everything in between

A cell phone ban at BOS meetings! How dare they! Is there anything more insulting than attempting to have a conversation with someone who is spending far more time enraptured by their attachment to whatever nonsense is being texted to them? That is exactly what is being done when the members carry their little electronic toy into a meeting.
Selectman McKinnon had the good sense to bring the issue up and to actually do the walk to match the talk and keep his cell phone out of meetings. However, the rest of the BOS apparently managed to do a song and dance routine that would be the envy of Gene Kelly in avoiding the prospect of life without connection – at least for a few hours.
Recently had to call the G & E about some of my wife’s – The Lovely Cynthia – precious trees overhanging some wires in front of our palatial estate. Within a few hours they were down, did a quick assessment and said their tree service folks would have us on their list. OK – a list from a government or quasi agency – expect the problem resolved by the next ice age.
Well, in a few days Barnes Tree Service showed up and cut they did. Cut way back. Beautiful job and a better clean-up. Quick response and professionalism all around. My gas/electric bill will be slightly less painful after that.
The bargaining goes one over a weed shop in Middleboro. Forget the “medical” part as it is a roundabout way of getting a joint without getting your ticket punched by the local gendarmes. Now the BOS will attempt to squeeze a few more bucks out of a local entrepreneur who wishes to open up a dispensary and didn’t we see that back in the day with a casino?
Anyways, I’m all for 100% legalization of all drugs. No incremental BS – manage, tax, maintain, regulate and punish like a DUI if a user does something silly like driving down main street on Krazy Days. So, maybe Middleboro can bag (one ounce or less) this business to add to our collection of Highpoint and McLean’s? Oh….and if the BOS is in negotiation be very careful if Mr. Shaw offers you any brownies
Krazy Days or is it Daze? Well, whatever, was rather impressive this year. Spreading like Bumpkins waist line. Plenty of options, free stuff, specials and an enthusiastic crowd. Hey – I have enough pens to last be to the next millennium. But there is one complaint.
Step right up to that train ride. My daughter and 3 and a half-year-old granddaughter took a $6 and three minute ride. This should be front and center on any local rip-off columns. Take a hint and dump this “ride” or get the price more in line with value.
Adam Bond was recently on FB with a whine – he actually whines more than moi – to express frustration over hiring local for a planned expansion. I imagine Adam is building a no smoking section to the office? But I hear him loud and clear and actually will give him some well-deserved kudo’s for going local.
Another police station override attempt is in the wind. Will this one have a weight room? Better call it an exercise room since a quick glance shows many an office has a “weight” issue. So what will be the cost per square foot? What frills will be needed? Place to cash those detail checks? Maybe kiss the Quinn Bill goodbye?
What the Police Station Building Committee is totally lost on is just who they are reaching out to impress or convince. My daughter has a condo mortgage, condo fees, car payments, works two jobs, is going to nursing school and is acquiring debt. She will see the salaries and say “why?” I can’t afford it. That, my friends, is why this puppy will be defeated without a strong and convincing argument. Folks like that should have been recruited by the committee, they will not join since they are (1) not embedded in the elite town structure and (2) actually are two damn busy surviving.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Local "Turmoil" and other selected garbage

The Board of Selectmen apparently have a division amongst themselves according to published reports and assorted gossip mongers – never would I be a gossip monger. From what I have been able to ascertain the latest focal point has something to do with the Tourism Committee.
I observed via my overcharged cable package the last few meetings. In fact I watch most meetings – usually with sharp objects well out of reach. I have no idea about any “divisions,” unless this relates to math and the BOS is collectively deficient in that specific area.
In fact with my quite limited intellect I was not quite able to get a handle on exactly what the Tourism Committee was pondering at the meeting. Of course my constant dereliction of media driven attendance was hampered by the nasty male habit of switching channels. What can I say? I like TMZ!
I watch the meetings weekly or bi-weekly depending upon scheduling and notice that collectively the BOS appears a relatively passive group in their interactions. Is there some type of verbal conflagration that takes place in the parking lot or at the Central?
So, just maybe, I should be more careful when reading stories in The Gazette that discuss this issue and the Committee. The story itself made me wonder exactly what is going on with the Tourism Committee. Some type of internal strife? And that results in a connect the dots to the BOS?
So, I shall remain confused until it is explained – and very, very slowly, to me.
I had the opportunity to go down Precinct Street recently to go for a trail run on the now vacant casino area – no, I was not searching for turkey feathers. The street had taken a significant hit during the winter and the usual collection of potholes had grown to where those in the International Space Station could view them. No more. The DPW has repaved – nice job.
And speaking of renovation – our picturesque landfill (dump) with Mount Garbage growing to the clouds has also been revamped. The place was a dump (sorry), but has now been organized with multiple stations to toss everything from yard waste to wood, metal and plastic. I’m not sure if it is a collaborative effort between Waste Management and Middleboro, but it is a huge improvement
A new school superintendent has been hired and Middleboro now has what amounts to a family oligarchy for that position.
The downtown of Middleboro is again rather bleak with two buildings at a prime location empty – at least on the observable ground floor. The bank building and Maria’s should be anchor stores for the downtown and now collect dust. Too bad.
What is a fascination of whacking a hanging flower pot? My assumption is these are probably youths in their late teens who had some type of life altering experience with a piƱata at a birthday party. No doubt they failed and missed out on assorted trinkets, so anything hanging – with no ability to defend itself – is a likely target.
I really would like to move or at least have a winter residence other than Massachusetts. But one place is certainly not on my list – Kansas. Why did Dorothy ever want to return? I make a yearly trip to the area that is totally dependent upon the Red Sox schedule to play in Kansas City, Mo. and stay across the Mighty Mo” in Kansas.
The heat and humidity makes Florida seem artic. The thundershowers would put a monsoon in South East Asia to shame. The landscape is depressing. The big business is prisons as the Feds have several – as do prions for profit – in the Leavenworth area. I am sure the lifers look out and say: “Escape to that?”
The SCOTUS went 2 for 2 in my book with the reaffirmation of Obamacare and the decision on Gay marriage.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Middleboro to Cuba

Why go to Cuba? To visit a communist country I could just spend a day in Cambridge or sneak into North Korea. Both represent viable options.
The first part of the trip was a landing at the airport in Cienfuegos and a trip to our hotel for three days.The entry was smoothly run and in about an hour the group (21) were in Cuba to meet our Cuban guide and driver. Our accommodations were at Hotel Jagua - built in 1957 by Myer Lansky. Fortunately, we stayed in the section that was a bed and breakfast and avoided the main building with its will you get water and electricity issues. Our portion of the B & B was an old house or really a mansion that became a "gift" to the revolution and eventually was purchased by a Caribbean hotel chain and converted. This appeared to be the standard modus operandi as seized property has been sold off over the years primarily to foreign interests. Of course the land is still own by the state and rent is paid.
Being Yankee running dog imperialist we had no credit card or ATM use so cash was king. The exchange rate was one Cuban dollar (CUC) for each American dollar with the government getting a 13% cut or vigorish. So our plan was to judiciously use our cash in small increments with the idea of not having to convert back and another 13% cut.
The first few days consisted of various trips to Santa Clara, Trinadad and Cientfuegos for cultural exchanges. This was an educational trip since tourism for such blatant capitalist is verboten - at least for the next few months while relations normalize and the Cuban government sees a sudden surge in Yankee dollars.
I lost track of the number of museums I had to endure on this trip and each and every one had wooden windows. The botanical gardens were exceptional and our guide was 100% American slang versed. Trinidad is about 500 years old and looks it as it is a typical well worn smallish city with cobblestone streets, numerous squares and, of course, the mandatory old cathedral. This was a general rule throughout the trip and especially in Havana where even a visit to a community center, nursing home, school and sometimes a privately owned restaurant had a historical attachment that stretched from a "Wow" to a yawn. The main focus of the rest of this little tale will be primarily observational.
In Cientfuegos we visited a school where the focus was on art and music. Another American group also attended and several students ages 11-15 made exceptional presentations. The school was ready to fall down. I looked around and realized just how damn stupid it is with our tunnel vision American eyes to think that an answer to a school is a new building. That visit alone puts me in the "No" camp for a new high school. We visited the art area where the staff for art numbers eight and the students number 34. They run the entire spectrum of art, music, sculpture and dance.
The Cuban people appeared to be a rather pleasant lot with an underlying hope that their lot in life is about to improve considerably with an influx of Americans and the elimination of the embargo. Our guide, Yamani, a true child of the revolution, and I had many interesting discussions of both social and political note.
The economy is a controlled one which means wage control. Professionals are especially hampered by this restrictive structure as a doctor, architect, teacher or ditch digger will get about $230 a month. How strange it was to have a world class architect with several international awards give us a three hour tour of Old Havana to pick up some extra cash. Or having a chamber music recital presented by music professors so they could peddle their CD's for a few CUC's and a tip for entertainment. You could sense an undercurrent of dissatisfaction especially by those who have been to the United States.
In Cuba health care and education are free. School is mandatory to age 15 and entry to university is based on test scores. The literacy rate is 100% and many of the books I saw were what you would find that proliferated the Communist nations in the 1950s-1980s. Fidel and Che Guevara are national heroes as is Jose Marti. Che is everyone - painted on walls, money and the ever present tee shirts. No where is that more present than the Bay of Pigs Museum and in Revolution Square in Havana.
I Havana we saw the medical school complex that has students from all over the world and even 100 from the United States. The school is free, but Spanish is required.
The Bay of Pigs is the collective Gettysburg, Saratoga and Midway. This was a "Yankee Invasion" and that is the theme. This is the Cuban point of view and they somehow have interpreted it as not a botched and ill-planned CIA maneuver, but with the full weight of military might of the United States. JFK is evil incarnate in their scenario. Yamani was unaware that JFK had inherited this mess from IKE and that he also refused any air support. Simply put if JFK had released two air wings it would be a "No Mas" for the revolution and no Missile Crisis.
Many Cubans were quite interested in American politics since it has had a considerable influence on life-style. My response was usually rather simple in that Cuba needs us more than we need Cuba and the last 50+ years show it. There is also - and I believe this to be legitimate - concern that the Cubans who left will return and eventually assume power. I had an interesting debate with a former diplomat on this topic. What was of even more interest is the general feeling is this would not be a negative. There is a burgeoning private economy and people wish to have the opportunity to give it a whirl.
Havana is a dump. This city is in serious need of infrastructure especially public transportation, waste water upgrades, water delivery systems and toilet seats. Yep....we would actually find many toilets without seats. Oh....and you generally pay for use of a toilet.
Back to Havana. I have traveled extensively in the region from South America, through Central America and the various islands of the Caribbean. Run down cites are nothing new, but Havana has 2.5M people. Some areas are beautiful with stately mansions that now have other uses or are occasionally owned or rented by foreigners on business. A few are, no doubt, homes of the party elite. These areas where the homes of the wealthy and upper middle class that left with the revolution.
For Havana it was a visit to 1958. The old hotels still stand, but no longer under American control. We stayed at the Hotel National that was built by gangsters (no surprise) in 1930. The hotel was elegant and still is but needs serious upgrades. The National is still "The Place" for the glitterati, diplomats and businessmen of all sorts. What was wonderful is the elevators that were circa 1930 and the quickest lifts I have ever seen.
Every day we would have a buffet breakfast and everyday part of it would be runny eggs. Please learn to scramble eggs! Otherwise, it would be assorted fruits, breads, sweets, pork and a few other items. The food was probably a consistent three stars for breakfast, but the presentation was always excellent. The service would be exceptional and you could get Americano coffee at the National without asking.
For many lunches and dinners we ate at private restaurants that are now allowed by the government with one stipulation - they must be in your home and these budding capitalist are way ahead of the game. Some would easily seat 100 people, they had volume deals with tour companies, would advertise heavily and knew customer service. As far as the food I can remember only one meal that would have me never coming back and it was - no surprise - at a government owned and operated restaurant.
The food was either a choice of meal or family style. Chicken, pork, fish, rabbit once, lobster and plenty of rise and beans. Salads were a disappointment as they were consistently sub-standard to what we were use to. The one exception was a restaurant that had two acres of vegetables and you had a variety of greens and some great tomatoes. Fruit was standard and that means guava, pineapple, mango and numerous other tropical fruits. I found them rather bland and that is not unique to Cuba. I have noticed that is other Caribbean areas. My wife - The Lovely Cynthia - claims it is me.
The prices are amazing. At the Hotel National I could get a cocktail or mixed drink for $4. After a historical tour-lecture in Old Havana I paid $3 for a coke (via Mexico) and Cynthia got a mojito for $2.50. The same applies to the food. I could get a three course meal from room service for under $10. In America that gets you a muffin and coffee. The same low prices are everywhere you shopped. You can negotiate if you wish, but I was embarrassed by how low prices were. This was not crap, but well crafted items that you could get for $5 or 2 for $8 (LOL!). And rum will go for $3.50 a bottle to $17 a bottle. Cigars are priced depending on size.
At one spectacular tourist trap I spoke with a teacher who sold trinkets to tourists. His wallet was loaded when he made change and said he'd make more in three days then a month of teaching.
Another enterprising type said he can't wait for Americans since "They spend a lot and are great tippers. The French and Germans are cheap bastards who are s!!t tippers."
Baseball is passionate in Cuba and I know that. I wore by Red Sox Rusney Castillo jersey and my Minnie Minoso throwback and would get into more conversations than I could count. Somehow my 100 words of Spanish and their 100 words of English resulted in fluent baseball. Where others brought gifts of need for adults and children I brought baseball cards. Guess who was the big "hit?"
We had an interesting discussion with a former diplomat who was in their foreign service for 20 years. The key ingredient of his talks was opening relations. Most questions tossed his way were softballs so who else to provoke, but Bogo? "Why was Cuba placed on the terrorist list in 1982?" That led to a small song and dance. "The London Times recently reported a round-up of 1,000 political prisoners. Any comment?" He was "unaware." "Why is Cuba on Amnesty International's list for human rights violations?" "It was reported last year by Mossad that Cuban was still giving support to Hamas. Is that accurate?" It was fun just to watch him sweat. Afterwards we had a nice conversation and he asked if I had served in the foreign service. I told him by diplomatic intrigue and skills were honed in casino debates.
The old timers are not people but cars. Old American cars. I expected a smattering, but they are everywhere. Tens of thousands in all conditions. In Havana we took an hour ride in a 1957 Impala convertible for $30. The condition is "rough" as most are using machined parts and many have different engines. Some have interiors that give you a view of the road. They are national protected species and will not leave Cuba. Many are government owed and operated.
Our farewell dinner was quite an experience. Instead of our tour bus - state of the art and very, very comfortable - we had a line of eight old timers to take us to a five-star restaurant. This place was exceptional - even toilet seats. As with just about all meals was music. We had music with almost every meal and it could be Cuban or Jazz or some type of fusion.
With every meal in Cuba we would get at least two drunks. This time it was endless wine or just about anything else. The desert was not the usual, but a variety including a flambe. Service was - as usual - impeccable. The surprise was it was government owned. The real surprise it was privately managed.
The exit was quick from Havana. A delay due to a computer malfunction, but visa exit was quick as was security. Then onto to a Sun Country 737-800 and 50 minutes to Miami.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015


School committee meeting are generally about as exciting as white paint on a wall. The retinue is fairly mundane with various presentations that force an onlooker into a glazed over stupor. Now a little excitement has been injected into the weekly adventure in “stupid things to do.” The stupid thing was to cut off public comment.
Locally, we have been down this road before. A few years back the Board of Selectmen’s meeting resulted in a long line of locals to protest the arbitrary sanctioning by Marsha Brunelle of public debate. Ms. Brunelle had the good sense to apologize and move forward. Of course she had the ill fortune to run again and was defeated.
In the latest local dustup the committee chair, Richard Gillis, relinquished his post, but choose to remain on the committee. The central protagonist was Lincoln Andrews, who has an extensive record of local service. The SC used lawyer speak to squash any comments. Their attorney advised them not to add it to the agenda when it was missed over a clerical error.
Suggestion to the SC: Get a new attorney.
A heated discussion and Mr. Andrews’ willingness to lock horns with the SC over this issue resulted in a phone call to the police, another member, with a shrill and irritating “point of order” being bandied about, resulted in a fervent verbal exchange during a recess with Mr. Andrews.
A small group of concerned parents has wanted answers and have not received them. The SC has been stonewalling and entrenched on this issue and that issue is why in regard to the superintendent.
At the center of this brouhaha is the dismissal or the firing of the current superintendent, Roselle Weiss. Of course she “resigned,” but in actuality the SC wanted her gone. I posted on this uprising a few months ago and it appears Ms. Weiss requested a contract extension and also had made some rather honest public statement regarding school performance.
Here is a hint to the SC: Middleboro will never be beyond Level two. In fact, based on the historic demographics of Middleboro the SC should be giddy and not to be lower.
Now the revolt seems somewhat diminished after another meeting. A new Chair, Rich Young, attempted to restore some sense of continuity to the agenda process and managed to survive a rambunctious verbal onslaught from a burgeoning audience of over 100.
Two of the protagonists - or at least one - has continued the exchange on social media. As my wife - The Lovely Cynthia - commented: "How childish." I have heard that term many times with me being the recipient.
Next up is the selection of a new Superintendent.
Allin Frawley wishes to support a bill to expand bow hunting into seven days a week and that effectively shuts out those of us who cannot use the areas during hunting season. This is an incredible display of selfishness by the hunting lobby and by Selectman Frawley himself. Six days for ten weeks were not enough? The sheer nonsense of suggesting that folks walk in the woods during hunting season with vests on show that some just do not read the news regarding hunting accidents.
With Selectman Frawley it apparently comes down to family time as family commitments and a work schedule impact his hobby. From my own experience with hunters, one son included, they have a tendency to schedule a vacation day or two during the season. And sacrifice? Please! Spare me. I had a job, three children, coached baseball and had outside interests that had to be diminished or eliminated.
Not to be outdone was former Selectman Wayne Perkins, who attempted to connect blue laws to why we have no hunting. Any port in a storm, Wayne. What you have, Wayne, Allin and Chris Reed, is six days a week. I know that as do most non hunters. As a trail runner my little group also plan. We have a list of “safe zones,” and what is starting and what season. The one concession is to allow one day for non-hunters to enjoy say the 10,000 acres of Myles Standish without fear. Or even Rocky Gutter.
This bill is simply foot in the door legislation that some more myopic supporters of this measure refuse or are incapable of seeing. The next measure will be to open up the season to all firearms seven days a week and then even expand the season.
The bill itself should not have been brought before the BOS. This is not the APC, which impacts us all, but a bill that is directed for a small group. Selectman Knowlton had it right.
The Oliver House project seems to change more frequently than Hillary Clinton on email excuses. This project apparently is held together by tenuous threads of maybe will get some cash….or maybe not? Meanwhile the CPA well is now fiscally dry thank to emptying the coffers to this project. A sincere “I told you so” is my patented response.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Ides of March

Forget the obstinacy of the business owner and his apparent track record of ignoring or circumventing the BOS, the issue is twenty-five cars on a lot. Common sense would mean 25 for sale. As was pointed out there’s a transient nature to a car lot. Customers have cars. Cars are in for repair. Employees have cars. A poorly worded by-law is being used as a punishment tool for an uncooperative business owner with a questionable relationship with the town.
What do you do if there is 25 cars on the lot and a customer shows up? Tell the customer to get lost? Pack up a car and move it off lot? If the town wishes to inspect the lot for cars make sure that there are 25 for sale.
According to the Brockton Enterprise there are five millionaires in Middleboro. That, according to state returns for 2012, is the adjusted gross income. There is no report on how many are employees of the police, fire or G & E.
Benghazi, Filegate, Travelgate, Whitewater and now emails. As George Will said “The Clinton’s would try to find a loophole in a stop sign.” So…Hillary is the front runner and you can fully expect the water carriers in her wing of the party to claim it is all a right-wing conspiracy.
Former Governor Deval Patrick is now with the Boston 2024 Olympic Committee. If there was any reason to say no to this boondoggle that should seal the deal.
Middleboro has managed to be rather successful in maintaining budget and that is reflected in lack of interest on the part of candidates. A smooth sailing ship.
The Boston Olympics certainly made a splash with Deval Patrick getting a $7,500 per day consulting fee. And no paid detail, either.
I have difficulty understanding the fascination on the part of the left with enemies of Israel. How much is rooted in anti-Semitism? A nuclear Iran? What a splendid option!
The Republican presidential hopefuls have now infected New Hampshire. A splendid group that make Sarah Palin look legit.
Baseball is getting ready for the season and I continue my spectacular articles on
If my street is any example Middleboro will be investing heavily in pot hole repair.
The Patriots have taken a step back and their competition a step up. I am certainly no fan of the Pats and do not shed tears over the loss of Revis - until he landed back with the despised Jets.
MCAS has been an educational success story so why Common Core? If Massachusetts was a nation we'd be among the top five in the world in performance and even higher in some instances.
When examining international testing such as SERI, be aware some nations exclude many students from the exam.

Friday, January 30, 2015

246/54, Downtown, Patriots,Olympics

The 246/54 represents the results of the recent national election. That is the Republican representation in Congress and the ultimate legacy of Obama. How much the shine of 2008 has eroded?
The Republicans actually played it smart – a political rarity for them. The focus was on running against a president that many now had firmed doubts about – very similar to 1980 when Carter was defeated by Reagan. You look at the blue states – and that is solid blue – and that is where Obama was welcomed. The rest? Forget it.
The Republicans made a concerted effort to avoid the usual bait and fall into the trap on social issues. Where that may resonate as a positive they certainly spoke out but other places? Nope. Avoid at all costs.
Even more surprising was the gains in state offices. I thought the Republicans would actually lose a few governorships and they actually gained, including here in the “People’s Republic.” Baker won by 2% and that is a virtual landslide considering the composition of the state.
So let the whining begin.
Already it has become a mirror of Republican angst after 2008. The passel of excuses and finger pointing. Seems like every other article has Koch Brothers in it. Simple fact is the folks got tired of all talk and no substance from the oval office. Toss in Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi and no more calls, folks, we have a winner!
But never count the Republicans out in the stupidity race as Mitt Romney is attempting another try. And don't forget Sarah Palin!
I grew up in Whitman. Whitman is far smaller to Middleboro in size and population yet there is a noticeable difference – the downtown areas.
On a recent visit after many years of exile I drove through the downtown section and notice variety of business establishments, few empty store fronts, some old restaurants and some new ones, plenty of parking, some nice apartments and even Duval’s Pharmacy still appears to be in business.
Whitman also has a second section that is on picturesque South Avenue with the main focus being in the area of the train station. South Avenue from the center of town to the train station has several businesses and private residences in this one kilometer stretch. In fact the whole town seems as vibrant as I remember it from my youth.
On the way back home I took a quick drive through downtown East Bridgewater. Seems they also have some healthy activity for such a small community. Very few empty store fronts.
But what about Middleboro?
Robert Nunes, our Town Manager (I’ll drop the “new”), has made one of his priorities addressing the very issue of our downtown business – or is it lack of business, area. The ideas sound like an excellent starting point and just maybe they will eventually be fruitful.
Most of the downtown area just appears seedy. An eclectic collection of store fronts from the 1970s, older buildings in need of some touch-up and some that seriously need to meet Mr. Demolition. Smoothing out the process for opening up a business is one part of the puzzle with the other part being placing it in something I would wish to walk into without taking shots and wearing a dust mask.
The addition of a college has not yet shown tangible results. I doubt Highpoint will add much to the esthetics. The only real positive I have seen is the theater and a few others that have managed to prosper. Now in the center you will have two empty store fronts to greet folks. How soon before Rockland Trust packs it in?
Selectman...or is it woman....or maybe person?. Anyways, she,meaning Leilani Daple, has done a commendable job seeking out ways of mitigating the situation. Maybe...just maybe...eventually it will be two steps forward and one back. When I first moved to Middleboro in 1973 the downtown was actually a nice place to shop. Maybe that can return?
Along the lines of downtown comes the Planning Board. A developer is suddenly in snit city after repeated issues with the board and has gone DFCON to the TM and BOS. This will be interesting as it, no doubt, will develop into a he said/she said situation.
The Patriots have once again displayed the ability to work outside the rule book. Belichick or Brady? Probably both. And add to it Bob Kraft. Kraft is a saint in these parts despite playing off Providence against Hartford to get a stadium.
Congratulations to Boston for the ultimate bad idea – attempting to get the Olympics. Fact is the taxpayers will eventually have to be responsible for billions and add to this the development of another quasi agency to mismanage this mess.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Open up Great Neck Island

I hate it when I have to agree with Bumpkin.
A recent Bumpkin column, a rather innocuous one, focused one the various trails in the Assawompset Pond Complex or APC. Of special note was the causeway that leads to Great Neck Island the sits in the middle of Great Quittacas Pond. The usage of the area elicited a response from former Lakeville Selectwoman, Nancy Yeatts, who is now guardian of the APC.
Seems that 500 acres, including Great Neck Island, is off limits to “protect the infrastructure of the water suppliers.” I could find no infrastructure on my many visits to Great Neck Island. There is a brick pumping station off of Route 105 that I could certainly dismantle with a sledge hammer and a 300 year life expectancy – get real, Ms. Yeatts! Ms. Yeatts further stated that public use can “be discontinued for deliberate of perceived threats to the water supply.” I have now been classified as “A perceived threat.”
I called Ms. Yeatts and mentioned the simple fact that one of the most scenic areas in the region is off limits. Like Bumpkin I will continue to occasionally use the area and take my chances. I would encourage others to do likewise. Join with me in the world of “perceived threats,” which is how this aged trail runner is now classified for the audacity to simply tell Ms. Yeatts I will continue to ignore her mandate. Chalk it up to my anti-authoritarian stance regarding public (note – public) land. I really get a burr in my bonnet with having access denied to those that foot the bill.
The island access is rather simple and would require very little in the way of adding some additional from the "Forbidden Zone." About 200M from the acceptable boundry would do it. All the way is already a rather spacious road. That would be it. A walk across the causeway and to the two trails on the island. Do it!
This may have made sense – even remotely – back in 2002 when the plan was initiated. But today? Does anyone actually realize how many access points to that area exist? Long Pond Road and Route 105 run up against the pond. What escapes Ms. Yeatts is the simple fact is the more use results in more observance. But to those with an entrenched and back thinking mindset this area is no doubt high on the target profile list of our assorted enemies. I do believe I saw Putin riding bareback on the causeway.
The APC is under used and especially in the area in question. A real sore sight is taking the access road that is on Route 105 and going into an area known as “The Sludge Pit.” This area has for the last several years been used as a dumping ground for vegetative waste material and some type of digging operation. The least that the APC can do is invest in a wood chipper. You really want a mess? Wander in back of that archaic pumping station off Rote 105 and follow the muddy brick road to their personalized dumping area. A lot more than just “vegetation.”
From the sludge area you can follow a road on acceptable and approved areas and witness the logging version of strip mining. For the last few years logging and heavy equipment have been in the process of doing who knows what. I imagine there is “A plan” for exactly what this encompasses, but it does seems like excessive disturbance to the area.
What makes me really wonder is Ms. Yeatts has an extensive resume in land preservation and use - especially in Betty's Neck. Why close off an area?
So I have done the usual route and written a letter to The Gazette, notified our legislators and hope that somewhere a light will go on in the forces that be regarding the APC and actually view Great Neck Island as a PUBLIC resource to be used, enjoyed and managed by all.
All across the country areas are being opened up and among them are areas that are classified as water resources – usually public drinking water – and they are open. I could make a nice list that would take up another server somewhere in cyber space – I have been to many of them where management is actually proactive.
This is now an addition to the above. Went to the area today (01/01/15) and entered via one of the gates on North Avenue. If you follow that access road you will come upon a main trail. There is even a map placed there as part of a scout project. Turn left and you are in the restricted area. How do you know that? You don't. There is no signage. None. You can wander around and see nothing. No signs. One would expect that the APC authorities have the fiscal resources to purchase signs and place them in the area. There is also fantastic potential for three scenic overlooks and one would be the island. It would take minimal amount of effort and I would gladly show the trails that need to be marked and improved.